Thursday, January 27, 2005

Take It To The Mix

The first time the concept of a mix tape was introduced to me, it was by my uncle Jesus (insert gag about having Jesus as my uncle here). As far as I understood it, however, it was nothing like what one traditionally thinks of when you say mix tape.

What he was doing (circa 1984-’85) was stringing together sound effects (with some music, but it was mostly sound effects) and made that last over the length of a tape, both sides. Then he would write a script to go along with the tape, and he’d send that along.

This script would detail the “story” he’d concocted, which would have to coincide with missile strikes, klaxons, and descending space ships.

The intended audience was a woman with whom he’d had a long distance something or other. I can imagine the look on this woman’s face, as she listens the cheesy 70s subsonic machinery noise that symbolized a gangplank coming from a UFO, while reading something like “He climbs aboard, knowing his true love is inside.” (“…uhm, yeah…”)

He ended up marrying another woman. That is a separate story.

Twenty years later, and mix tapes (or “mix cds” for the persnickety), and the making of, have become something of a serious hobby for me. In fact, I just finished making a fresh set. I’m planning on making them available here, but there’s a huge list of people that need to get them first.

If you noted the plural-usage in the paragraph above, it’s not a typo. I’ve created a mega-mix (a box set, if you will) that spans three CDs (!), each with their own feel and flow, but still serving the larger theme (in this instance, Women vs. Men, look for a playlist soon). The last batch I made spanned two CDs. Making copies and sending these out has already cost me more than I’d like to think. I haven’t even made a dent on my list of recipients.

Someday I’ll be able to confine myself again.

Also, I need to pace myself. It’s been two years since the last batch (time being an issue with me in general, if you haven’t already noticed from the steady flow of posts here). It’d be nice to have less of a gap between sets.

I spend days toying with the lineup (something I was never able to do before the days of CD burning), doing my best to ensure variety and pace.

It’s a tricky business; which is why I hold firmly to the belief that DJs are practitioners of a higher art form. Not radio DJs, but those that travel with their own turntable set up and lug numerous boxes filled with vinyl.

Think about it: You’re at a party, large group of people mingling, and some doofus decided that Pink Floyd is a great album to listen to. Along about Us and Them, the group is dead. You think, “hey! I’m going to put in that new album by The New Pornographers, and watch these fuckers fly!” Fifteen minutes later, only the drunken stragglers remain.

Whereas, when a DJ has his/her groove going? And it’s not simply a matter of only playing songs everyone knows. That definitely comes into play, but it has to be at the right time, and used sparingly, like salt.

I have no aspersions toward high art, but I like to think I make a decent mixologist.

Next time, my thoughts on how to create a good mix.

[Click here to go to the next entry in the series--tbo]


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